Nine Turkish soldiers were killed and four injured on Thursday after the helicopter carrying them crashed in southeastern Turkey, reported the Ministry of Defense, which assured that it was a “accident”.

“Nine heroic soldiers fell as martyrs and four were injured in this accident” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the accident occurred in the Bitlis region.

Rescue teams were trying to transport the injured to hospital, the ministry said, without giving details about the severity of their condition.

According to the same source, the device, a Cougar manufactured by Airbus, took off from the city of Bingol bound for Tatvan shortly before 1100 GMT and disappeared from the radar half an hour later.

Authorities managed to locate the crash site after deploying drones, a reconnaissance plane and another helicopter.

The Turkish army regularly carries out operations in the southeast of the country against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group described as a “terrorist” by Ankara and its western allies.

In 2017, a military helicopter crashed in Sirnak province, on the Syrian-Iraqi border, killing 13 people.

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